Art Toronto revives the FOCUS program, this time with art from Latin America

ART TORONTO at Metro Toronto Convention Centre, North Building, Exhibit Hall A & B. October 23 - October 26, 2015. Now in.

ART TORONTO at Metro Toronto Convention Centre, North Building, Exhibit Hall A & B. October 23 – October 26, 2015.

Now in its 16th year, Art Toronto has scaled back its real estate slightly, featuring less than 100 galleries. But it’s emboldened its overarching platform as Canada’s only international art fair, attracting 30 exhibitors from Tokyo to Perú, an increase from last year.

Replete with performances, on-site installations, tours, panel discussions and artist talks, the art fair has worked hard to highlight leaders of the Canadian art market. Their commitment to spectator engagement has been something learned, next to fostering dialogues that comb the waves of cultural trends.

This year, Art Toronto’s new director, Susannah Rosenstock, revives the FOCUS program and taps into a cultural moment. Presented in part with Americas Society (New York), FOCUS: LATIN AMERICA is curated by Abaseh Mirvali, an Independent Project Producer and Curator based in Mexico City, Berlin, and Istanbul.

FOCUS 2015 showcases eight galleries from Mexico, Central, and South America (all new to Art Toronto), includes artist talks and lectures, and features work by five Latin American artists: Eduardo Basualdo (Argentina), Max Gómez Canle (Argentina), Matías Duville (Argentina), Catalina León (Argentina), Mateo López (Colombia), and Milena Muzquiz (Mexico).

This is the first time these artists – all of them – will be exhibiting in Canada. 

Mirvali’s curatorial statement is clear. She writes, “These artists leave behind the folklore, going beyond the stereotypes that sometimes is associated with the work by artists from Latin American [sic] and simply focus on their practice.” 

Most of us are familiar with Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera (perhaps Ana Mendieta, Damián Ortega, or Oscar Murillo for the more curious), but Latin America is undergoing surge of popularity in North America and Western Europe. There have been major retrospectives at the MoMA, the LACMA, the ICA Boston and the ICP. And there will be many more.

And Toronto has its own active Latin American visual arts community, spearheaded by Latin American-Canadian Art Projects (LACAP) and its directors, Tamara Toledo and Rodrigo Barreda, which has been working as a unit since 2003. There is also aluCine Latin Film+Media Arts Festival, which has functioned since 1995.

Looking for a primer? At 1 pm on Saturday (October 24) the fair hosts Latitude-West: Latin American Art After the Canon, which explores “curatorial strategies used to position Latin American art within the larger western art historical canon.” At 6 pm, curator Abaseh Mirvali partners with Gabriela Rangel, director of Americas Society, for a discussion with visiting artists Max Gomez Canle and Catalina Leon. Talks last around 45 minutes, with a 15-minute question period, and are included in the price of admission. 

I’ll be at the Curator Art Tour led by Georgiana Uhlyarik on Friday (October 23) at 1 pm. Described as a “Guerilla Girl-inspired, say-it-like-it-is highlights tour focusing on the work of female artists,” I’m sure the 30 per cent of women practitioners fortunate enough to secure gallery representation would love to see you! | @nowtoronto

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